What price free?

It’s been an interesting week for Instagram users. First the company change their terms and conditions and make it pretty clear that adverts are coming and that they will be able to use your photo’s in adverts that they serve. They don’t quite say they are selling your photo’s but for me go pretty damn close. This caused quite a commotion ranging from chatter on Twitter that it’s time to go through to a discussion on Newsnight. Really?

A day later Instagram tried to clarify the position via a wordy blog post, acknowledging that their legal speak had caused confusion for it’s users but don’t worry, we will make the language easier to understand. Meanwhile we will change the terms a bit so it doesn’t appear to be such a major change. Sneaky?

This was a long time coming. Facebook didn’t pay $1 billion purely to stop competition. They have to make that money back somehow and advertising is just one of the ways that they will do that via Instagram. So as a user what choices do you have? Either suck it up and continue to use Instagram or leave and use something else. That’s it. And it’s clear many are leaving because on deleting my account this morning Instagram are actually linking to their clarification blog post.

Instagram now linking to their clarification statement on changes. Seeing a few users leaving?

Instagram now linking to their clarification statement on changes. Seeing a few users leaving?

For me it’s exactly the same as Twitter where they are changing the service into something I don’t want in order to make money but won’t let me pay for something I do want – the service as it stood a few months back. This is the danger of free. Free web services will alter/pivot to suit advertisers and not their customers.

While I have much to say on this topic, Gordon has blogged about this already and covered much of my views so go and read his post and then come back here for some conclusions.

So my Instagram account has been deleted. This is no biggie for me as I took only 14 photo’s via the app. If you’ve taken hundreds and made lot’s of contacts then I can see why it’s not so easy to leave. I’ve had a Flickr Pro account for 7 years and despite looking at 500px, self hosting and new options like openphoto (they have a nice import feature so you can copy photos from Instagram, Facebook and Flickr like I’ve done here) I’ve stuck with Flickr. With the new iOS app update I’m glad I did and I’m hopeful of future improvements down the line. I’ve too much invested to make the move trivial.

Aside from privacy concerns my main problem with Instagram was always fragmentation. I want all my photo’s in one place, and as I was a Flickr user, that one place wasn’t Facebook or Twitter. I never felt a compelling reason to use Instagram. Yes the filters were great and it made it really easy to take and upload an image and also see your friends photo’s and comments quickly, all in one app. Flickr missed a trick in taking 2-3 years to release a decent iOS application. In fact Flickr has been missing a trick since Yahoo bought them but thats a whole other topic. But for me I never got the Instagram bug. I tried but it never clicked.

The lesson for me is to try and stop jumping from app to app, service to service. I pay for Evernote, iTunes Match, Flickr, App.net, web hosting and share my data via Dropbox and iCloud. There’s probably more that I pay for that doesn’t spring to mind which is a problem in itself. App.net shows lots of promise but I have two issues. One is that many of the people I interact with on Twitter haven’t moved which I expected but it has made it far less sticky for me. The second is my time – I find it hard enough to keep up with Twitter (cull coming soon) but adding a second similar social network on top is a time sink. However I need to make more effort with App.net – maybe a Netbot for Mac would help? Even writing that ‘I need to make an effort’ tells me that App.net isn’t working for me. Mmmm.

Will I go all paid like Gordon is musing? It’s probably heading that way. I use Google App’s for all my domains and the podcast and would happily pay a fee each year to keep using those services. Same with Gmail – I’d have no issue paying for a great e-mail service. Where paying get’s frustrating is when iTunes Match goes through a flaky patch yet Googles similar but free service has worked without a hitch so far although I’d expect Google to charge at some point or start showing some ad’s. The excuse that Apple doesn’t get web services is wearing thin.

If I get a great reliable service then I will happily pay – Xbox Live for example has been really good over the years and it’s a service I have no objection to paying for. What I will be doing is shutting down the accounts that I’ve created over the years that I just don’t use anymore. Last.fm jumps to mind – scrobbling from everywhere used to be important to me but not anymore. I will also try and stop signing up to everything shiny and new. Honest.

Well, thats a lie really as I’ve signed up to three new services in the last day or so. When will I learn.

2 Comments

  1. “Free web services will alter/pivot to suit advertisers and not their customers.”

    Therein lies the biggest mistake by most people, they think they are the customer of Twitter, Instagram etc. Like the few early adopters loudly quitting twitter for app.net because of restrictive API changes (that a high 90% of the user base don’t know or even care about), like it would actually make a difference. They are more akin to the commodity, the cattle. No pay, no say, and even then payees has little say as I can remember more than a few Flickr freak outs over the years.

    There’s no real happy system unless you pony up and do it all yourself, but people would rather have the instant gratification of Twitter retweets, Facebook likes and Instagram loves. And, sadly, I don’t see much community interaction on Flickr anymore….

    • True – other issue being early adopters while influencing the tech/geek community are in reality a very small percentage of the userbase of Twitter, Facebook, Instaram etc.

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